Religion

Post about Religious topics. My spiritual journey is a subtopic of this.

What can we learn about the Three Self Movement today?

(This was written for a discussion in Christian History II and I thought I'd adapt it to be a blog post as well.)

The discussion of the Three Self Movement reminds me of Roland Allen whom some of my friends are very interested in. It led me to try and find out more information about Henry Venn, "honorary secretary of the Church Missionary Society from 1841 to 1873."

I am struck by the different approaches of Indigenisation that Venn supported, of having missionaries start the churches which would then be handed over to the indigenous people and Indigeneity which Groves and Allen supported of having the indigenous people start the churches themselves.

This raises for me the question of how we reach out to the “nones” of today. Are we trying to get them to return to the churches of the previous century? Are we trying to set up churches we will hand over to them? Or are we trying to help “nones” develop communities that meet their spiritual needs?

Vigil

Furtively we crept to the wake.
The room was dark and full of pictures.
We had hoped he would be the one
We had hoped that this would be the week
when we arrived at the capitol
with great fanfare,
but the crowds turned against us.
They gave him the death penalty,
executing him like a common criminal.

Now, we huddle in silence, sadness, shame, and fear.
Will they come for us next?

Suddenly, there’s a commotion.
One of the women has returned.
She says the body is missing.
Is this the final insult,
a desecration of his grave?
Another returns.
She has seen a vision.
She says he’s alive.

I am shaking;
terrified and overjoyed
with no way of understanding
what all this means.

On Being a Postcolonial Mystic

Note: This is a forum post I wrote for my New Testament at Church Divinity School of the Pacific class this week. We have been reading from Written That You May Believe: Encountering Jesus in the Fourth Gospel by Sandra S. Schneiders and from John and Empire: Initial Explorations by Warren Carter.

I have greatly enjoyed the juxtaposition of Schneider and Carter for this week’s readings. I am very interested in Postcolonial readings of the sacred scriptures. Whose story is being told? Whose story isn’t being told? How are these stories being told in hidden rhetorical or encoded ways? As a twenty-first century progressive politician, I’m very conscious of ‘dog whistle politics’. Are there code words in the New Testament that we are overlooking? Are there code words that Jesus or the writers might have used, but been unaware of their coded meaning? I find it very helpful to ponder this.

Likewise, I’m very interested challenging binaries and false dichotomies. Was John writing about Jesus teachings as they applied to the Roman Empire? Was John writing about spirituality? Could this be a both/and instead of an either/or?

For me, this comes together in the idea of Jesus being fully human and fully divine. The politics of empire feels very much concerned with the fully human aspect of Jesus. How do we stand up together against oppression? The language of spirituality feels very much concerned with the fully divine aspect of Jesus. How do we experience unity with Jesus, especially at those times where he is absent and fully present at the same time?

Perhaps the most important question is the fusion of the two. How do we stand up together against oppression while being in union with Christ and all believers? Perhaps this is the challenge of the twenty-first century Postcolonial Mystic.

The Parable of Returning to Church

The kingdom of God is like a church on Easter morning. A person who had been struggling with many parts of her life felt a strong need to go to church even though she had not been in a long time and didn’t want to seem like one of those people that just go to church for appearances on Christmas and Easter. As she sat quietly in a pew regularly occupied by a church stalwart, members of the clergy, tired from the long Holy Week along with some of the most active participants in the church community looked askance at her and others coming on Easter after a long hiatus.

When a friend who had been praying for a long time for her saw her, she rushed up, filled with God’s love, and gave her a big hug. At coffee hour, they said down and shared many wonderful memories of Sunday School years ago where they learned the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son.

Poverty, Charity, Exceptionalism, and America's Glory Days

Recently, a friend shared on Facebook a link to a blog post, On Being a Millennial Pastor– Leaders who don’t Remember the Glory Days. The author talks about the glory days when the churches were full. He spoke about many older pastors grieving the passing of that era. He suggests embracing the church we have now and those “who showed up to seminary full of energy, called to serve a church in decline.”

That sounds about right to me, although I might qualify the idea of decline. It might be a church with declining membership but it can still be a church full of vibrancy. It might also be that there is a greater decline happening.

Another article I read recently was a Study By MIT Economist: U.S. Has Regressed To A Third-World Nation For Most Of Its Citizens.

In the Lewis model of a dual economy, much of the low-wage sector has little influence over public policy. Check. The high-income sector will keep wages down in the other sector to provide cheap labor for its businesses. Check. Social control is used to keep the low-wage sector from challenging the policies favored by the high-income sector. Mass incarceration – check. The primary goal of the richest members of the high-income sector is to lower taxes. Check. Social and economic mobility is low. Check.

A sharp contrast to this can be found in John Winthrop’s famous sermon entitled "A Model of Christian Charity", sometimes called the City upon a Hill sermon. Winthrop talks about how God “hath so disposed of the condition of mankind, as in all times some must be rich, some poor… that every man might have need of others, and from hence they might be all knit more nearly together in the bonds of brotherly affection”.

What made America great and can do so again, is not keeping wages for the poor low and taxes for the rich low. What makes America great is when we are knit together in the bonds of brotherly affection, rich and poor alike, caring for one another

An Op-Ed in the New York Times back in January draws this into sharper focus. In The U.S. Can No Longer Hide From Its Deep Poverty Problem, Angus Deaton notes that 1.7% of Americans live in deep poverty, living on less than $4 a day. That places us in fifth place for the highest percentage of people living in deep poverty in developed countries, with only Greece, Portugal, Italy, and Spain having a higher percentage.

Some conservatives suggest that the real problem with America is that it has lost its spiritual way. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps we need to return to the vison of America that John Winthrop preached about where the rich truly are concerned for the poor. Likewise, perhaps those longing for the glory days of Christianity in America are right. Yet what we need is not more people sitting in pews on Sunday morning. We need more people trying to live the life of Christ, helping out those around them.

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